COLUMBIA – Twenty-one seconds changed the fate of a season.
Webster Groves junior Courtney Ramey watched a free throw fall true, hustled back on defense and saw teammate Carte’Are Gordon block a Kickapoo shot attempt. The horn sounded and Webster Groves beat Kickapoo 58-57 in the Class 5 boys basketball semifinals at Mizzou Arena.
“They made some runs and our guys always had an answer, (Webster Groves) just had one more answer than we did,” Kickapoo coach Dick Rippee said.
The game matched the top two teams in the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 5 poll. No. 1-ranked Webster Groves (28-2) prevailed from a late bout of punch trading with No. 2-ranked Kickapoo in which the lead changed twice in the final 21 seconds. The Statesmen will play Lee’s Summit West (26-2) for the Class 5 state championship at 6:20 p.m. Saturday.
Ramey scored 17 points in the second half to finish with 25 and send coach Jay Blossom’s Webster Groves squad to the state championship final.
“He struggled early. When you’ve got a great player, you just got to keep going and hope he’s going to get going, and (Ramey) got going,” Blossom said.
Kickapoo fell to 25-5 and suffered its first loss since the 2017 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions. Rippee spoke of his team’s accomplishments throughout the season.
“It’s a shame people missed the game today if they weren’t here or they didn’t get to see our team play this year. They missed something special. Our team is something special, and I’m just proud to be a part of it,” Rippee said.
Kickapoo has seven seniors on its roster. Two are bound for NCAA Division I basketball, Jared Ridder to Xavier and Cameron Davis to Navy. Additionally, Travis Vokolek is signed to play Division I football at Rutgers.
Ridder and Davis draw heavy attention from basketball fans, and Rippee feels that sometimes undercuts the contributions from other players.
“We feel like this year has been a year where a lot of individual accolades have been rewarded, and we feel like our team hasn’t got the attention that it deserves, and that’s disappointing because basketball is a team game,” Rippee said.
Davis hit a 3-pointer with 21 seconds remaining that put Kickapoo ahead 57-55. Davis scored 21 points, including a pair of fearlessly made 3-pointers in the final minute.
“Hard work eliminates fear, so there’s no reason to really be nervous about anything. I’m sure they were nervous too,” Davis said. “It’s just all about making plays, and I felt like we made some great plays down the stretch. Credit to them also. They made one great play at the end, a clutch free throw, that’s the end.”
Ridder overcame a slow start to score 16 second half points to finish with 24. He also had eight rebounds.
“If you give them any daylight at all, they are deadly, both of them,” Blossom said of Ridder and Davis.
Ridder gave Chiefs supporters a scare when he lay motionless on the court for more than a minute after a first-quarter collision with Webster Groves’ 6-foot-9 big man, Gordon.
“I was just trying to get back on defense and take a charge. Carte’Are’s knee just hit me in the ribs, and he’s a big dude,” Ridder said.
Gordon was a teammate of Ridder and Davis’ in the summer of 2016 on the Nike EYBL circuit. The three played for MoKan Elite.
“I’m good friends with both of those guys. They’re great guys and great players, so it was fun playing against them,” Gordon said.
Third-place game will be championship rematch
Kickapoo will play for third place Saturday at 11 a.m. against Chaminade (24-6), the team that beat the Chiefs 72-59 in the 2016 Class 5 state final.
Lee’s Summit West beat Chaminade 74-69 in the corresponding semifinal.
“We’re looking forward to (Saturday) and a chance to play Chaminade again and get some revenge from last year,” Ridder said.
The consolation game allows Kickapoo’s class of seven seniors to go for the 100th win of their varsity careers. Davis likened the third-place game to a reward for reaching the semifinals.
“It’s not really a pride game, it’s kind of just like a great finish to a great year,” Davis said.
In the past four seasons, the Chiefs are 99-18 with three district championships and two trips to the final four.
“It’s incredible. We’ve been here for four years and we couldn’t thank everybody who has helped us along this journey enough. I mean, there’s a reason that God puts people in your life,” Davis said.
High school boys basketball Class 5 playoff semifinal
Webster Groves 58, Kickapoo 57
At Mizzou Arena
Webster Groves 17-9-19-13—58
Kickapoo—Jared Ridder 24, Cameron Davis 21, Isaac Blakeslee 8, Travis Vokolek 2, Mitch Closser 2
Webster Groves—Courtney Ramey 25, Carte’Are Gordon 18, Isaiah Ford 5, Kevin Butler 4, Cam Potts 3, Donovan Daniels 3.